Let it never be said George Michael hides from adversity. After his arrest for lewd conduct in front of one of California's finest last spring, the former Wham! frontman has bounced back with a greatest-hits package featuring a new single and video that pokes fun at the whole embarrassing mess.
Ladies and Gentleman--The Best of George Michael (Epic Records) collects his 15-year career on two CDs. The first, "For the Heart," spans the ballads--"Careless Whisper," "Father Figure"--that made George Michael a lite-radio staple. The second, "For the Feet," contains such big disco songs as "Freedom 90" and "I Want Your Sex." It also sports a brand-new tune, "Outside," that features cop sirens, '70s backbeats and just-slightly sleazy lyrics. The video for "Outside" briefly re-enacts the, um, indiscretion, along with a scene of two male cops kissing passionately.
Snide new songs aside, much of the older material has aged well. Songs that were played to death years ago (did you ever want to hear "Faith" again?) sound surprisingly strong and clean, instead of merely leftover from the '80s. One of the main reasons to shell out cash to hear songs you already know is that the package also showcases some of Michael's top-notch collaborations. A new duet with Mary J. Blige that appears on the European release doesn't show up here, unfortunately, but Michael's other big duets are showcased: Aretha Franklin ("I Knew You Were Waiting"), Elton John ("Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"), and Astrud Gilberto ("Desafinado") all appear.
Pundits predicted his career would be dead after his arrest, but Michael bounces back here with a brazen sense of humor, self-promotion, and fine packaging. If you're a big, big fan, you'll want this just to hear him mock his own misfortunes. If you feel casual about Michael, it's a good starter set. Just don't wink at the security guard on your way out of the music shop.